The Nobility of Crickets

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Aloneness. A bench. Sunrise. Winter. Beauty. So many metaphors for a heart that longs to hear from Him.

I was sitting with a friend over some amazing enchiladas and creamy jalapeño dip, and doing what we do when we get together – eating Mexican food and catching each other up on our lives and hearts. And inevitably we began talking about our pain. Because, if you are having an honest conversation with someone you love and trust, how can this not come up? Whatever we walk through becomes part of who we are – and if we show up authentically in relationship with another, our pain tags along. Every time.  And it was one of those moments when, as soon as I spoke the words meant for her, I realized that they for me also.

We were talking about the experience of God disappearing on us. Of feeling like He is nowhere near. Of feeling abandoned by Him.

First off, let us not dismiss the holiness of this conversation by feeling like we need to defend God or a particular theology. He is a big boy who isn’t threatened by our honest exploration of His identity and His ways – or our experience of His identity and His ways. Not to fear, accurate theology has a way of surfacing among open and seeking hearts. However, when we are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand, many of us have tendencies to offer pat, dismissive answers. (God is good, all the time…The Bible says so…It’s not about what you feel…If you just had more faith…You should…read more, pray more, work more, etc.) In other words, we sometimes attempt to ease our own surfacing anxiety with people who ask challenging questions, or questions we haven’t wrestled with just yet by shutting them down. The time to break open the Bible and discuss the theology that underlies our experiences will eventually come around – but only if we are open to this part of the process. When someone shares their heart (especially if it is messy), the first response should be compassion. Grace. Maybe a few questions to get the full meaning of what they are saying. The people of God, who are His hands, feet, ears to listen to, and shoulders to cry on here, should be safe places for people to bring their broken hearts… in all their messy glory because…

God cares deeply when our hearts are broken. And He wants us to bring our broken hearts fully to Him. If we hide the places that actually hurt (usually because of shame or fear of rejection – see paragraph above)… the experience can be sort of like having a very painful sore throat, yet when the doctor asks you what the problem is, you tell her it is your knee instead. The complication is that, a sore throat will often, eventually resolve itself. A broken heart…well, those don’t heal nearly as neatly or predictably. Why would we go to a doctor, and yet not seek help for the part of us that is actually wounded? 

We do this with God all the time.

In this evening of being together with my friend, how we were, where we were… letting it be ok to not be ok, to not have all the answers, to have questions and emotions that didn’t fit neatly in a box or that made us sound more put-together than we were… she said,

“When I pray, all I hear is crickets.”

Silence. Aloneness. Doubts about His love. Worries about being in His will or pleasing to Him. Wondering ‘what am I doing wrong’…or ‘what is wrong with me’? What follower of Jesus hasn’t had this heartbreaking, disorienting, at times terrifying experience? And somewhere in the conversation, after relating and empathizing, I said, in words I realize now were not entirely my own,

“What if some of the noblest work of God is found in the crickets?”

I’ve been sitting with this question for a while now.

What if learning to wait on Him, and trust Him in uncertainty is THE work He has called us to? Not a peripheral lesson of the faith, but a central one?

What if learning to be still and silent before Him is the royal road to deep satisfaction in Him? 

What if some seasons of silence actually contain amazing amounts of God-communication to us, but our skills with silence are so underdeveloped, that we have no idea how to understand or process it properly?

What if our incomplete knowledge of Him severely limits our experience of Him? 

What if the most loving thing He can do is to break our destructive theological paradigms by defying them? And what if silence is one way to do that? 

What if the crickets we may hear in certain seasons of our relationship with Him are not a sign of His distance from or displeasure in us, but instead a sign of His nearness, of His desire for us to have More, and of His transforming power at work in the deepest, most tender places in our heart? 

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Eccl. 3:7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.

 

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Finally Getting My Heart And My Body In The Same Place

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And here I am, speaking at my home church. It was a special moment for me.

It was kind of funny…and one of those ironic-God-is-chuckling-at-me moments. At the close of last year’s ladies luncheon at my home church of Kennesaw First Baptist, a friend asked me an interesting question. She was curious how it felt for me, sitting in the audience, knowing that I could be up there speaking. While I was honored that she thought me capable of it, without thinking very long at all, I said, “They’ll never ask.”

First of all, I didn’t think anyone at church really knew who I was, my gifting, or what I do.  I didn’t feel very “seen” or “known”. While I am blessed to occasionally travel to teach to college ministries, to other women’s groups, and in Europe, and while I love, love, love the college students I get to work with every week in Sunday school, I sometimes feel like I haven’t really found my place at my home church just yet. It’s that weird loneliness-in-a-crowd feeling we all have experienced at some point. In fact, my last few years have involved a lot of soul-searching about my identity (Who exactly am I?), about God’s calling on my life (What exactly am I doing here?), and about how to get my heart and my body in the same place…because, while I live in Kennesaw…to be honest, most of the time, my heart has been somewhere else.

And second, while I am not exactly sure what a “ladies luncheon” speaker is, I am pretty sure I am not that. I’m a Bible teacher. A messy one too. I talk about matters of the heart, and our inner world – the complicated, deeply broken places inside each of us that only we and God see – and how God wants to meet us there. I focus on those seasons of life when things get really dark, of what it looks like to walk with Jesus in pain, and how it can cause the ground to disappear underneath us. I wrestle with deep existential questions of the faith that defy black and white answers. And while the goal is to let the struggle lead us to intimacy with Jesus and the joy available to us as we let Him do His work in our hearts…such joy is often seasoned with a lot of tears along the way. Hardly the stuff of polite conversation over chicken salad and fruit.

P1010530So, imagine my shock when the leaders in our church’s women’s ministry asked me to be the speaker at this year’s event. I was incredibly honored. And humbled. And more than a little terrified. Because getting in front of people and vulnerably pouring your heart out, opening yourself up to criticism and risking epic fails in public…it is one thing to do it in another city or on another continent…it is very different to do it in front of people you see every week and who teach your kids’ Sunday school class.

But I gave it a go. Because deep down, even with the fear of failure, even with my concern over whether or not I would be what the ladies expected or wanted…I really do want to be known. I really do want to be at home where I am. I really do want to learn to be fully present where I live, and to also be fully who I am among those I do life with on a regular basis. And somehow I knew that offering my story and gifting to the women in my church and community would be an important step on my journey to all of those things.

And a funny thing happened that day. As I walked onto the platform…at the same time… it felt like I finally arrived home. It has been a long time coming, with many other “homecoming” events along the way, but this was a big one. Somehow, my heart and my body…long in a bit of an adversarial relationship, finally made peace with each other. The experience wasn’t as much about what I do, as being who I am, where I am. I wish I could explain it more fully than that, but…I’m pretty sure I got much more out of that day than anyone sitting in the audience.

Click here to link to the talk I gave , if you would like to hear it. It is titled The Wise Woman. It is in 3 parts. I love how it came out. 

The Thing About Marriage Is…

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This is one of Jeff’s favorite pictures of us – on our 15 year wedding anniversary. The adventure continues…

Today is my 19th wedding anniversary. Not hardly long enough to understand very much of what it means to join my life and heart with another, and just long enough to get a glimpse of both how beautiful and heartbreaking the attempt can be.

The thing about marriage is…no one comes into it with any idea of what they are doing. I realize now it is better that way for all involved. Nineteen years ago I thought marriage was about love. About companionship. About sex. About beginning a new family together. And it most certainly is all of that.

But…for some…those brave enough to make the attempt for something greater…who are hopefully surrounded by marriage mentors able to explain and model the process…or those who God pulls along kicking and screaming… (My category, by the way.)

Marriage can also about two broken people, being courageous enough to undress their broken souls in front of the other… in all its raw vulnerability, almost never at convenient times, usually in shockingly unpredictable ways… and asking to be loved…offering unconditional love to the other…the very things that broken souls struggle to do.

And along the way, if both husband and wife face their fear of rejection, of abandonment, of failure…if they decide to do the hard and at times terrifying heart work needed to repair the damage sin has done in their lives…if they decide to stay present both physically and emotionally, even when everything in them is leading them to retreat…they have a unique opportunity.

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And this is one of my favorite pictures of us two…taken before a flight I made to Oslo…so much symbolism here…

To experience healing. Growth. To develop hearts with greater capacity to love and receive love. To do this amazing thing where their lives become more intertwined and interdependent…yet at the same time they become more fully the individual God created them to be…cheering each other on in their journey, both from the sideline as a fan, and in the race as partner all at the same time.

And if they keep at it…one day…what began as two broken people uniting in their brokenness, has the potential to become two more-whole people, enjoying the delightful and tender experience of loving and being loved by the more complete, more mature version of their spouse.  Because years into a marriage, one’s husband or wife is both the same person they married, and also, the different person that their time together has helped craft. And as their bodies decline with age and the mileage of life, their hearts can come alive, enabling a togetherness and love that is unavailable… and honestly, unimaginable in their youthful brokenness.

This is how two become one. It is a longer, messier, and more gloriously wonderful journey than anyone could ever explain to another. Instead, it must be personally experienced through the years.

The thing about marriage is…it isn’t what most people think it is. It can be more. Way more.

 

The Beauty (and Sneakiness) of Ordinary

I’ve known for a long time that I’m kind of ordinary. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy wrestling through this depressing truth. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know all the “right” responses to this…”There’s only ever been one of me in all of history”, “God made me special”, “If I were the only photo-13person on earth, Jesus would have still come for me”, “No one shares my fingerprint or DNA, literally and metaphorically”, etc, etc etc.

It’s just that my culture of famous, notable ministers, of passionate coffee-drinking, creative/hipsters changing the world, and social media allowing me to see it all, have combined to give me a deeply entrenched inferiority complex, leading to some rather profound spiritual wounding. Those with intense and successful ministries, tell me that to really be a disciple of Jesus, my life must be radical. My deeds awesome. My sacrifice epic. In fact, they use their personal examples of how God has used them, to encourage me to pursue great things for my great God. And I agree with almost everything they say, even as I come up short by comparison. Then, there are creative/hipsters out there who live these amazingly interesting lives pursuing their dreams…and who inadvertently shame me for, ironically enough, financially supporting their creativity through my consumption and encouragement of their attempts to change the world.  Then, Facebook lets me see glimpses of other’s extraordinary lives that look so much more meaningful and, honestly, more fun, than mine… that my heart, immediately and without too much of a push, goes to some dark and self-condemning places.

It isn’t hard to see how I could begin to think, “Hmmm…this says something about how God feels about me… that His plan for me is so…ordinary.”

What bothers me most is not that I will never win a Nobel prize, or build an orphanage in Asia, or lead a movement-starting ministry. It is that God has called me to be ordinary. As far as I know, I am not living a disobedient life to my Savior. And as a result of my faithfulness to Him, I live in a rather nondescript suburb of a pretty average city. I am pursuing an important, but not a particularly world-shaking profession. I go to a healthy and loving local church, but we aren’t pumping out best-selling books, hosting large conference or creating paradigm shifting worship albums. My personal ministry is very fulfilling, but no one will look at my “numbers” and do anything but yawn. Most of my days are spent getting kids off to school, cooking and cleaning, driving, bed time routines, conversation and Parks And Rec reruns with my husband in between it all.

I am ordinary. By both providential calling and gifting. Sigh.

What I’m finding though, is that ordinary can be beautiful. And learning to find Jesus and His love in the ordinary parts of life is actually a most extraordinary pursuit. Because, while ordinary is where I live, it is where Jesus lives too.

In the naps, in the snuggles, in the casseroles, in the traffic jams, in the coffee, in the time spent pairing up socks.

He is enough. I am enough. 

There is beauty in the sacrifice required to be a parent to kids day in day out, in learning to put the needs of another in front of my own and learning to enjoy it even. There is beauty in being fully present at my church every Sunday…faithfully worshipping God, serving others, offering my gifts, and receiving the gifts of others. There is beauty in a marriage that is best represented by an open front door, a well-used kitchen table, a refrigerator with kids’ report cards and artwork stuck to it, and a bed that my beloved husband and I have decided will only, and ever be, just for the two us to share. There is beauty in following Jesus as best as I know how in the middle of all of this.

Most healing…most growth…most blessings…are found in the ordinary places of our lives. And the gift wrap they come in is the ordinary people and relationships that we often overlook. “Ordinary” can be sneaky that way.

Not everyone gets to change the world. But everyone can be changed.  Jesus extends the invitation to become more like Him, (which is indeed quite extraordinary) in the midst of our ordinariness. And it is a goal that everyone has the potential to reach. I can be a success in His eyes, in my eyes, by being exactly who He has created me to be, exactly where He has placed me, doing exactly what He has asked me to do.

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.


 

The greatest love stories are those that play out all around us in the middle of ordinary.  An Ed Sheeran song, of all things, gives beautiful words to this in a wonderful married person’s love song. He sings, “We found love right where we are.” Most of us do, you know.

If you haven’t seen The Lego Movie yet, what are you waiting for? It is a celebration of how ordinary is often a sneaky cover for extraordinary. And, I totally could have given this speech.

 

Meditations On Loneliness

Sometimes, loneliness is not about the absence of people. I know this because I’ve never lived alone and I’ve still been lonely. I’ve never not been connected to my family, to my surrounding community, either of believers, of neighbors or co-workers, and I’ve still been lonely. I have lived my entire life in the presence of many people, many of whom knew my name and liked me, and I’ve still experienced terrible loneliness. How is it possible to be lonely, butmail never having been alone? While I know some people whose loneliness is a direct result of lack of contact with people, (those who live alone, are housebound, who are new to an area or culture, whose work or geography isolates them, whose life circumstances are tragic, etc) there is another form of it that I am more familiar with. It involves being disconnected. Let me explain.

We all have two worlds – our inner and outer world. The outer is very familiar to us, it is that which is outside of us, which we present to others and which all can see. Our outer world includes our physical selves, what we choose to post on Facebook or social media, our accomplishments, our words, our body language, our conversations, our attendance, our appearances, our choices…etc. It is the part of us that is open for everyone to interact with and see. But it is our inner world that is most truly who we are. In our inner worlds are those parts of us only we and God see – our memories, preferences, emotions, the stories we choose or are not able to share, our dreams, our fears and doubts, our character, our internal monologue, our thoughts about things, events, people…and this is the part of us that we sometimes (often) choose to hide from others for a variety of reasons. Maybe it isn’t safe or we aren’t comfortable with who we are on the inside. Perhaps we’ve figured out that people prefer a different self than who we are, so we pretend to be the preferred person. For some, what is going on inside of us is such a mystery to us (and maybe so powerful as to make us afraid of it) we can’t even explain it to others. Maybe we are ashamed of what is in there.

And so, when we choose to relate to others through our outer world, if it isn’t aligned properly with our inner world, our deepest, truest self, we can feel disconnected. Deeply misunderstood – and how could we not? People are relating to a part of us that isn’t authentically us. Our bodies may be one place, but our hearts are somewhere else.  It is like being very hungry, yet eating potato chips. Or having an itch on your shoulder blade, but your friend scratches your nose. It just doesn’t satisfy. And it can feel kind of awkward. This practice means we can be painfully lonely on the inside, even when our outside has a very full social calendar: because we are trying to connect with the wrong part of us.

This can hurt because…

Disconnection is one of the most painful of human experiences. We are wired for connection. In fact, God said it isn’t good for us to be alone. (Gen. 2:28) Even a cursory reading of scripture and observation of how the world works and how humans thrive indicates we are meant to be in community with each other. We are not solitary creatures. When we are forced into cultural forms and patterns that deny us connection with people, it produces loneliness. And a whole lot of pain.

I sometimes explain to my visiting non-American friends that America is what happens when you get everything you want. We wanted bigger houses, more stuff, bigger yards and privacy. So we bought them with our time and relational bandwidth. We don’t have time or energy for other people anymore. Not the way we were meant to anyway. We rarely live near our friends and family, and we are too busy working and driving to see them significantly. As a result, we are now a very lonely people, sacrificing the daily interaction people historically had with their communities in pursuit of our wants. How else to describe a society that is so affluent and materially blessed with all we could ever want, yet is so depressed, overweight, anxious, fearful of the future, angry and lonely? We are disconnected from each other.  And it hurts.

Disconnection/loneliness has one of its roots in unshared experience. We don’t just want to be connected to anyone. We long to be connected to people who like us, who are like us and who understand us. This means that often, we are looking for those who have similar experiences to us. Yet, how to find those people if our experiences are locked away in our inner worlds and we don’t share them with others? This is a conundrum. And it can become more complicated if we are in pain or experiencing loss (I wrote about this in more detail in Meditations On Grief). Not everyone has lost a parent, has a spouse with a cancer diagnosis, has a chronically sick child, is infertile, has been betrayed by a loved one, etc. We need to find those people we can connect with around our pain. When connecting points are missing, either because we haven’t shared our experiences or because we don’t share the same experiences, we feel alone and lonely as a result.

Disconnection has another of its roots in shame. Shame is the powerful feeling of being unworthy of connection. (Daring Greatly by Brené Brown) We feel that there is something so wrong with us that if someone else knew it, they wouldn’t want to relate to us. The girl who was told, implicitly or explicitly, that it is her body people want, not her. The boy who struggles with a porn addiction he can’t control. The couple whose marriage is in shambles. Abuse victims with tragic stories tucked away in their hearts. While the circumstances are different, we all feel shame. WE ALL FEEL SHAME – which again, is the feeling that if others really knew us and our inner worlds, they wouldn’t want to connect with us. So we hide. We disconnect from the world around us. We become lonely. Gen. 2:25 describes how God intended for mankind to live. It says, “The man and woman were both naked, and they felt no shame.” We were made to be seen and known, with no hiding and no shame. Connected to others. Just a few verses later however, man and woman sinned, are flooded with shame, are now disconnected from God and each other and begin to hide.  We’ve all been lonely ever since.

God has a heart for the lonely. Ps. 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families…” God says that He will be with us always. (Jn 14:16, Matt. 28:20, Ps. 23:4) One of the primary things He longs for His children to learn is to abide in Him – to be with Him. (Jn. 15:4) If we can learn this, we will never be alone. He knows our hearts (Ps. 33:15) shares our experiences (Heb. 4:15), knows what it is to be lonely (Matt. 27:46, Matt. 26:40) and frees us from our shame (Rom. 8:1, Ps. 34:5).  He also longs to restore us into healthy relationships and connection with others. (Jn. 13:34-35) God has a heart for the lonely and wants to meet our need with Himself. If we can learn to open ourselves to Him and let Him love us, He is a most satisfying friend. 

But sometimes, we still need friends with skin on. While God indeed is great, and He loves us and wants to be with us, it is still possible to be painfully lonely, even with Him in our lives. Because we are made for connection. With more than just Him. With each other. We’ve been hardwired for it. So, part of relating to Him means we learn to relate to others better. In more healthy ways. We learn to not hide our inner selves from those in our relational circles. To share our experiences and stories, to really and truly listen to the experiences and stories of others and connect around them. To learn our shame is a liar, telling us things about ourselves that aren’t true. To create places for others, if they choose, to lay their shame down in the presence of safe people who love them.  These are most powerful spiritual skills, not often taught and often not learned. We often prefer the spiritual skills of Bible study and prayer, because they are safe in the realm of our outer world – and we can do them alone. But if we can learn to practice the subtle and messy skills of community, they invite us to relate more healthily to others and to God at the same time. They hold the potential to ease our loneliness.

(originally posted on 5/28/13)

Grief Is This Funny, Freaky Thing (A Mother’s Day Post For Those Who Have Lost Their Mom)

(I wrote this 2 years ago.  I still miss her.)

My mom has been gone four years now. Four years. Four years. I loved my mom. And now, even now, I can’t believe I’ll never see her again.

The first few days after she passed were a blur. We had just gotten home from years in Europe and hadn’t

The last photo I have of me and mom, before she got sick. I gave her the necklace she is wearing. She told me it was one of her most favorite gifts I ever gave her. I have it now.

even unpacked all our stuff yet. I didn’t have clothes for a funeral. None of us did. I remember holding it all together through the details, tearing up occasionally as emotion welled to the surface. But…I just didn’t have time to cry. I did what I had to do to get through. People needed me. And I was afraid to let it all go for fear of the force of what lay hidden within me.

The next few months were…weird. I kept waking up at 3am with a compulsion to clean house. I felt so much better when a friend told me she did the same thing after her daughter died. My grief was, at least in this circumstance, normal. Whatever that is. But still, somehow I needed at that time to know I was…normal. Because so much of my life did not feel normal.

Grief continued to rear its head unexpectedly as time marched on. Sometimes I would call dad’s answering machine, just to hear her voice. And I remember the first call after he changed it. Reading her handwriting on notes left around the house…looking at photos of all of us…fragrances that brought her to mind. All pushed something deep within me, something I was often afraid to say hello to for fear it would never leave.

As the years pass, I see how our family has this huge hole in it, one we still haven’t figured out how to navigate. I began to realize that all I had lost wasn’t in the past, but in the future also. My kids weren’t going to have a grandmother. Abby would have no memories of her. I wasn’t going to have a mom anymore. I was the mom. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays…all different. Lacking.

I live in her house… although I guess it is my house now.  I had a dream a while back where she looked like herself, when she was still healthy. She was wearing purple, just like she said she would do when she got old. She spoke to me. I realized I hadn’t heard her voice, the voice that lived with me every day of my life, in four years. It felt so familiar, like a part of my brain that had been asleep for a while, woke up. She said something to me I never heard her say in life, but needed desperately to hear. I tried so hard not to wake up, to stay there with her for a while. I couldn’t. She slipped away again.

Just the other day I looked out in the backyard and saw some stray roses blooming. Beautiful pink and red roses she planted with her own hands and loved. Just like my life that now blooms here also – she planted and loved that too. I wept. And wept. Then sobbed. So random. So not random.

I am too young to be motherless.

I am learning how grief is this funny, freaky thing. It has a life of its own. It will not be dictated to or controlled. It comes and goes when it chooses, yet never really seems to leave. Sometimes I think it is my friend, giving immense relief to the pressure of my inner world. Some days though, I am not sure. I can cooperate with it, letting it have its way when it shows up – or I can try to swallow it. Swallowing grief however, is a bitter pill… doing more damage than help. I am finding it is much healthier for me when it stops by for a visit, to sit with it a while . Maybe have coffee or tea together. Then, let it drift off again to wherever it goes when it isn’t front and center.

Doors to the past may close, never to be opened again. But they are often made of glass. I can still see what lies behind them, always in view, but out of reach.

 

(originally published 9/13/12)

A Few Things Young People Should Know About Marriage (pt.4) – The First Turn Is Really, Really Important

In some ways, a marriage is a lot like taking a long road trip with a friend.  You both are trying to get somewhere (hopefully the same place) and you’ve committed to doing it together.  In light of this, there is a truth about something road trips and marriage have in common that I’d like to discuss.

The first turn is really, really important. 

I live in Atlanta, which is a city dominated by interstates.  I-75 runs through it, north to south. I-85 runs through it, DSC06986northwest to southwest.  I-20 runs through it east to west.  Depending which interstate I get on and in which direction (which is the first turn in my trip), this determines a lot about where I will go. It limits a lot about where I will not go. That first turn forms the framework on which I will reach, or not reach my destination. The following turns are just the details, fleshing out whatever overall direction the first turn determined.  If I want to go to New York, I’d better not get on 1-20, because I’ll never get there.  Or, after moving in the wrong direction for a while, I’ll have to course correct…which is never fun.  Or easy.

In a like manner,  there are some important turns you can make early in your marriage that have a tremendous impact on the direction you both will take.  They can either turn you towards things like maturity, wholeness, greater affection and trust, healthy communication and more oneness…or not.

In light of this, what are some really good ‘first turns’ young couples can make?

9. Take the first year to really concentrate on learning how to be married.  That first year of marriage can be a really tender, sensitive time, when possibilities are open that may not come around again.  There is never another season of life where you are more open to change, to really hearing what your spouse is saying regarding their needs and preferences, to be willing to accommodate the other, to be willing to learn.  As time goes on, patterns get set, routines established, normal is defined.  Once these things are in place, change is much harder and often more painful. This means the first year of marriage is a special window of opportunity to craft and shape things in your marriage.  My advice?  If you don’t have to, don’t fill up your schedule with other, less important things.  Keep your evenings and weekends free to play, make love and talk.  Make lots of fun memories together.  Don’t commit to a lot of church or social activities – as good as these may be in another season of life.   Try to meet up with other couples in the same season of life and talk.  Try to meet up with other older, healthy couples in the next season of life and pick their brains.  While it is true that you can always go back and fix things later, it is so much easier to build something right the first time as opposed to having to repair it down the road.

10. An important first turn is learning how to talk to one another.  One the reasons sex is such an important part of marriage is in how it forces a young couple to learn to talk about incredibly intimate and personal things.  “I like this. I would like to try this. I need this. I am not comfortable with that. Are you ok? This is stirring up stress in me, could we slow down or stop and talk about this? etc. ”  Is there anything more awkward? Yet, is there anything more important to the longterm happiness and health of a couple’s intimacy? What a great skill for two people who have committed to do life together to learn!  And I’m not just talking about sex here anymore.  I am talking about the skill and art of learning to communicate about things of the heart.  Ask any couple who have been married for longer than 2 minutes how important communication is, and they will probably fall all over themselves emphasizing this.  For two people to navigate all the challenges, changes, pain, emotions, crises, joys, with another…you have to learn to talk. To listen. To engage.  One of the most important things a young couple can spend the first season of life together learning is how to do this well.  How to let the other know how they feel, when a subject is getting too emotional for them to continue healthily, how to say things like  “I’m sorry,” and “I love you,” and “Help,” and “Stop,” – and how not to say those things in the way you want to say it, but in the way they are able to hear it.  No one knows what life will throw at them as time goes on.  But if you can build a relationship that contains the tools to communicate and problem-solve…the likelihood is higher that you can work through whatever comes your way.  Young people…please, spend a lot of your first year of marriage learning to talk and listen to each other.  (and making love to each other…which is material for another post:) It is a turn that leads you to good places in your relationship. And it is a turn that is so much easier to make early on as opposed to later.

Previous posts in this series:

The Importance of Peripheral Relationships

The Importance of Knowing What’s On The Inside

Looking For Unexpected Traits In A Spouse